Travelling to Namibia? A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card
A local SIM could reduce your roaming bills.
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Namibia is one of the southern African nations with a shoreline that touches the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a relatively poor country but extremely popular with tourists visiting Etosha National Park to take safaris. Using your home phone network in Namibia can be expensive, so consider switching to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper local tariffs. Namibia has some good prepaid SIM card offers and deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data for NAD139 (AUD$13.24), which might sound expensive but should work out cheaper than your current roaming rates abroad. So, whether you’re planning a holiday or a Central African tour, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in Namibia
There are only two main operators in Namibia: MTC and TN Mobile. Both can be trusted and have been tested by locals, travellers and leading testing sites. OpenSignal’s coverage map doesn’t have much information on the overall network signal, other than the fact that Namibia has great signals along the highways and in the main towns and cities. The technology offered by both telco providers isn’t great, so you will experience trouble using the Internet, and the phone signal will sometimes cut out. Signals can suffer the most in the more remote regions, but that will happen on any phone or provider you use there.
About Namibia’s operators
Both operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from stores, supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets, as well as at the Hosea Kutako and Walvis Bay international airports. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones.
You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets. Please note there is a 15% tax added onto all prices in the country. It’s also important to purchase credit from reputable resellers, so make sure vouchers are stamped with the branded logo. When purchasing products online, make sure you use the official provider website in all instances.
Below, we have broken down the major telco and SIM card providers to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Namibia.
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MTC is the largest provider in Namibia and offers good network coverage and competitive rates. It provides customers 2G and 3G services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and the SIM must be registered by showing your passport as a valid form of ID. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere, including supermarkets, corner stores, service stations, online and from street stalls. However, we suggest avoiding street sellers at all costs.
We highly recommend MTC for travellers, because it offers good voice and data packages and it also has some great promotions to bring down the costs even further. The best place to purchase your prepaid SIM card is at the airport when you arrive, to get it out of the way. The MTC official store is located just outside the Arrivals door and is open between 6am and 9pm. The staff are very friendly there and will set everything up for you without any hassle. If this store is closed, then there are sometimes salespeople working in a kiosk nearby.
Prepaid SIM cards are branded as “Tango” and can be purchased for NAD6.99. There are a number of voice and data packages available. There is also a tourist SIM card available for NAD19.95, which comes with NAD19 credit. SIM cards come in all sizes, but if they are short on any particular type, then others can be cut down to fit your phone slot.
Credit can be purchased in varying amounts between NAD5 and NAD300, and each amount is valid for 100 days. Dial *131# to check your balance.
The standard data rate is charged at NAD1 per MB. The following data packs are also available, and each is valid for 60 days:
Dial *682# or *147# and follow the prompts to select the relevant pack.
There is also the “Aweh Gig” combo package, which can be purchased for NAD35. It comes with 100 local minutes, 700 SMS and 1GB of data, plus 500MB extra data for WhatsApp, valid for 7 days. Text “#AwehGig#” to 134 to activate. Aweh Gig credit vouchers can be purchased from most stores and at MTC vending machines. You can update data as much as you like after the first 7 days of use. Please note that there is a 15% tax charge added to all rates.
MTC’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.mtc.com.na/
TN Mobile is the only other provider in Namibia, and it offers good network coverage and reasonable rates. It provides customers 2G and 3G services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and the SIM must be registered by showing your passport as a valid form of ID. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere, including supermarkets, corner stores, service stations, online and from street stalls. As noted earlier, we suggest avoiding street sellers at all costs.
The best place to purchase your prepaid SIM card is at the airport when you arrive, to get it out of the way. TN Mobile has an official kiosk outside of Arrivals and is open most of the time.
There are two prepaid SIM card deals: “Hola!” and "Prepaid per Second” which, strangely, is charged on a per-30-second basis rather than a per-minute basis. Although this might sound a bit bizarre, it can help to bring the costs down.
If you would like to check your balance, send a blank SMS to 124 or call 139 to listen to your balance through an automated system. To add credit, send an SMS with the voucher code to 124.
The standard data rate is charged at NAD0.95 per MB. The following data packs can also be added:
|Data volume||Price||Activation code|
TN Mobile also has a selection of combo packs available, called “Jiva”. For NAD30, you will receive 1GB data, 100 local minutes and 700 SMS, valid for 7 days. There are sometimes promotions available that include free use of the following social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber. Check offers at the time of purchase, as they can change from time to time. Dial *130*776# to check data usage and balance. Please note, there is a 15% tax charge added to all rates.
TN Mobile’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.telecom.na/index.php/tn-mobile
OneSimCard is also a good bet for travellers. It provides a Namibian prepaid SIM card to use within the country or for travelling around South Africa. OneSimCard provides customers with low-cost prepaid services in Namibia, and international calls and data that can be used in more than 200 other countries. OneSimCard also offers a global SIM card that can be used in all countries around the world. Please note that you must have an unlocked GSM phone to be able to use this SIM card.
National Geographic SIM card
National Geographic also offers a prepaid SIM card that can be used by tourists in Namibia. National Geographic provides a SIM card with both UK and US numbers, to use within other countries worldwide for the same price in each country, including South Africa. National Geographic provides customers with low-cost voice, data and SMS charges that could work out cheaper than your home phone network would. Please note that you must have an unlocked GSM phone to be able to use this SIM card.
South African operators
There are a number of South African operators that run as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) through the providers we have highlighted above. MVN-X uses the Cell-c operator to run a number of MVNOs in South Africa, and there are also several other options available that might work out cheaper than your home provider can offer you while travelling around the region.
- The Namibians mostly speak Oshiwambo, so you may need a translator if you aren’t familiar with that language. We recommend you download Google Translate onto your phone before heading off on your travels. Some locals do speak English, so shop around if you have any troubles.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM SIM”.
- Ask the official sellers to set up the SIMs for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions above or go to the official website for advice.
- Make sure you purchase your SIM card from the official stores. Top-up vouchers are trusted from chain supermarkets and approved resellers. Try to avoid street sellers.
- Make sure you purchase credit from the official websites or branded credit voucher machines.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for hotels, flights and holiday bookings, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Namibia.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“Reception was OK in towns and main camps but data transfer was slow. Good enough for checking email and TA but too slow for posting photos. Not very useful if your accommodations are all booked in advance.”
“You can get an MTC SIM Card at the airport for NAD4.99 and use it in an unlocked phone. You can then buy credit and load this onto the SIM card as you go.”
“I do not recall any 4G availability; most of the time it was 2G ... or even slower :(. I am not sure your 4G data plan will work outside of main towns. You will have connection to Internet, most of the time, or better said at least once each day, yet only with limited bandwidth/speed.”
“There are plenty of Wi-Fi hotspots in the main towns and cities, and also in most hotels and cafes. I would suggest using their free Internet services until you really have to use a SIM card. The signal can be problematic and the Internet is slow.”
Pros and cons of Namibia’s top telco providers
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Some SIM cards can be used in other African countries, including South Africa
- Can be expensive, so compare roaming rates with your current provider to make sure it’s cheaper
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Street sellers can be unpredictable
- Network coverage and Internet speeds can be problematic
Do you have more questions about finding the best SIM card?
Q: Is the signal really that bad in the countryside?
A: All networks will suffer in the countryside, no matter what provider you use. Local networks offer a relatively reliable service that is no worse than what you would get on a home phone network in Namibia, so it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card because the rates will be cheaper. Be careful when heading out into the remote regions on a safari or trek. Make sure your tour guide has either a satellite phone or some kind of communications device to contact base if there are any problems.
Q: What if I lose my phone in Namibia?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around Africa. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated. If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you don’t have any luck, then report it missing. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let this one out of your sight.
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